COVID-19 App and the Danger in Kogi State

COVID-19 App and the Danger in Kogi State

The sudden rise of COVID-19 confirmed positive cases in Kano is still on our minds. We blamed the government for their neglect and the citizens for not obeying the social distancing order. But the truth remains that people died as a result of that neglect, or should I say “purposeful neglect”. The problem here is that it looks like Kogi State is towing the line of Kano State.

Some weeks ago, it was revealed that the Kogi State government battled COVID-19 with the aid of an app – a self-assessment app. This app uses the NCDC checklist for suspected and high-risked cases to test people. According to the recent interview of the State’s commissioner for information, Mr. Fanwo, the app is developed by the state government and is already subscribed by about 200,000 Kogites. How they collect data is that the subscribers fill the questionnaire on the app and from the information provided, the health workers will then decide if the subscriber is at risk of contracting the infection or not. If the subscriber is a suspected case, the health workers will then trace his house for further interrogation.

Well, this app of a thing sounds good, in one part, and dangerous in the other.

But before looking at the dangerous part of using this app, let us remember that Kogi State is yet to record any COVID-19 positive cases. The government would have been applauded for safe-guarding their citizens if not for a lot of things happening around the country presently.

If you would recall, the NCDC chairman, Chikwe Ihekweazu, raised an alarm some weeks ago that it is impossible to say that COVID-19 is not in every state of the federation. He called out on the state governments, whose duties it was to collect samples from suspected cases, to buckle up. He noted that the states without records are obviously neglecting their duties.

Recently, Ihekweazu accused states without records of COVID-19 positive cases, Kogi and Cross Rivers precisely, of sending an unsatisfactory number of samples. This accusation seems to spark off the anger of Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, who claims that the state is being put under pressure to declare positive cases that are non-existent. He further alleged that there is an ongoing plan to “import” COVID-19 patients into the state. This allegation may sound hilarious, but if you look deep into it you will see reasons presented by the governor that will exonerate him when Kano repeats itself in Kogi.

However, attention is drawn to Kogi State by two other groups – the doctors and the journalists.

The NMA, Kogi State chapter, has expressed their concern and dismay over the Kogi State government’s refusal to collect samples from COVID-19 suspected cases for the test. This information came some hours after the governor claims that his state is about to be sabotaged. This then makes it obvious that there are several unconfirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kogi and that the government decided to look the other way for reasons best known to them.

The journalists, as mentioned earlier, also drew the attention of Nigerians to the happenings in Kogi State. An investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, claims that he has reliable sources that told him that several suspected cases of COVID-19 have been reported in FMC, Lokoja, and that some of them have died. He claims that efforts to get the state ministry of health to collect samples of these patients proved abortive and as a result, the dead ones were buried while their contacts roamed the streets, spreading the virus, even to health workers.

One may then wonder why the Kogi State government neglects the citizens and puts the health of the whole nation at risk. Your guess is as good as mine. However, Soyombo claims that the state is broke and could not even provide an isolation centre.

Coming back to the app, the commissioner for information claims that all the cases tracked with the help of the app proved negative. He also claims that nobody died from the disease in the state. He wasn’t specific on how they found out that those suspected cases and deaths were negative. But what Kogi State government should remember is this:

  1. There are people with the virus that are asymptomatic. These people will still sound negative in the app’s questionnaire.
  2. A lot of positive cases, that know they are positive, avoid health workers until it is too late. We hear about those that ran away before their test results were released, and those that ran out of isolation centres. If these people are not tracked down and tested by force, well, no one will know about them.
  3. There are many people in Nigeria that do not know how to make use of electronic questionnaires. I am not talking about the uneducated and those in the rural areas this time, but the literate ones in the city. This may be the reason why only 200,000 people have subscribed to the app.
  4. It is possible that this questionnaire is not well monitored. I mean, who checks and assesses the data input in the questionnaire? If it is an automated one that marks green for negative and red for positive or suspected cases, well, it won’t work. Some things need personal human touches.

The truth is that the thought of Kogi and their ways of handling COVID-19 is scary. The state is close to the FCT and it witnesses a lot of traffic from the FCT. It is almost impossible to believe that Nasarawa, Niger and Kaduna states that also bordered the FCT have confirmed positive cases, while Kogi does not. Like I said, it is “almost impossible”.

However, what is happening in Kano today will not be part of Kogi tomorrow.

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